11/06/2007 12:00AM

$4.2 million mare keeps Keeneland sale rolling

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's market for mares was clearly still sizzling on Tuesday, one day after Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum bid a world-record $10.5 million for Swettenham Stud's English champion Playful Act.

The second session's top price was the $4.2 million that My MeadowView Stable laid out for Grade 1-winning millionaire Island Sand. The 6-year-old Tabasco Cat mare sold carrying a foal by the highly fashionable A. P. Indy and was the subject of a long battle between My MeadowView's agent, Lincoln Collins, and Padua Stables owner Satish Sanan, both seated in the pavilion.

The Tuesday session grossed $69,435,000 for 186 horses, up 5 percent from last year's total for 178 horses. The average price of $373,306 was up slightly from last year's $370,112, but median fell 12 percent to $220,000. Tuesday's buyback rate was 20 percent, down from last year's figure of 24 percent at the equivalent session.

Island Sand was one of two major purchases My MeadowView has made so far at the Keeneland November sale. The stable is operated by Barnes & Noble chief executive officer Leonard Riggio, who intends to build a world-class broodmare band primarily for a homebreeding program and also purchased $3.2 million Kamarinskaya on Monday.

Monday's record sale of Playful Act surpassed the previous record of $9.4 million for Magical Romance last year at England's Tattersalls December sale, and it helped lift the opening session's bottom line. Buoyed partly by a record total catalog of 5,415 horses, the opener sold 194 horses for gross receipts of $109,064,000, a 30 percent gain from last year, when 164 horses sold on opening day. The 2007 average price of $562,186 was up 10 percent from last season. But the median declined 8 percent, falling from $297,500 to $272,500. The buyback rate also fell from 30 percent last year to an unusually low 19 percent. Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, said he believed the low buyback rate suggested that more lower-end horses were able to be sold this year, causing a dip in median.

The bidding for blue-blooded mares and Grade 1 winners soared, pushing the Monday session's total of million-dollar sales to 28, which Keeneland officials said they believed was a single-session record for the November auction.

Even such well-heeled buyers as Sanan found themselves in deep water on Monday.

"I bid on nine yesterday, and I got one," Sanan said Tuesday after losing the bidding war for Island Sand.

Sanan was more successful Tuesday, picking up three mares for a combined $2.05 million.

Earlier in the day, 2003 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Adoration, now in foal to Curlin's sire, Smart Strike, brought $3.1 million on a bid from John Magnier of Coolmore Stud, the losing bidder a day earlier for world-record Playful Act.

Magnier, bundled up against the cold in a blue ski jacket and baseball cap, bid from behind the sale ring, leaning up against a wooden partition with a clear line of sight to his bidspotter. Swarmed by the media after he signed the ticket, the chief of Coolmore had little to say about his new acquisition for Coolmore's global breeding operation.

"She's good-looking and a good racemare," he said, adding that Coolmore had made no immediate plans for Adoration.

As for the price, Magnier said simply, "That's the market. What can you say?"

"Wow" is one word that springs to mind. The market for mares started strong at Fasig-Tipton on Sunday, when the 12 million-dollar horses were led by Maktoum's $5.75 million purchase of 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Round Pond, and so far it has not let up. This despite slippage at the top of the select yearling market in 2007 - a slowdown that had many sellers concerned that those select yearlings' dams might sink some in value, too. That clearly hasn't happened, at least not at the top of the mare market.

One major beneficiary of the bullish market for mares was Adoration's consignor, Mill Ridge Sales. Mill Ridge also sold Grade 1 winner Megahertz, cataloged in foal to Bernardini, for $2.1 million to Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and Grade 1 winner Spoken Fur, carrying a Smart Strike foal, for $1.65 million to Southern Equine Stable.

Mill Ridge also took vicarious pleasure in Round Pond's big price at Fasig-Tipton two days earlier. Mill Ridge raised Round Pond for her breeders John Toffan and the late Trudy McCaffery, who sold her to Fox Hill Farms for $105,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September sale.

"It's really different," Mill Ridge Farm owner Alice Chandler said, comparing the November mare market's relative strength with the softening in the select yearling market. "I don't know why, whether it's the stock market or the market in general."

Other high-priced horses at the Tuesday session included $2.5 million Lemons Forever, whom Charles Fipke bought from Eaton Sales, agent; $1.9 million Be My Queen, cataloged in foal to Mr. Greeley, whom M L Bloodstock bought from the Gainesway agency; $1.35 million Cassydora, in foal to Hennessy, whom BBA (Ireland) bought from Matagorda Farm's agency; $1.3 million Guilty Pleasure, in foal to Bernardini, whom Stonestreet Stable purchased from the Burleson Farms agency; $1.25 million Kushnarenkovo, in foal to Kingmambo, bought by Hugo Merry Bloodstock from Eaton Sales, agent; $1.125 million Promenade Girl, whom Thoroughbred Advisory Group purchased from Eaton Sales, agent; and $1.05 million Hatpin, carrying a Johannesburg foal, whom Audley Farm bought from Sam-Son Farm (Anderson Farms, agent).

The day's top weanling was a $950,000 Kingmambo colt out of the Sadler's Wells mare Because. John Ferguson, representing Maktoum, made that buy, citing the success of the Kingmambo-Salder's Wells cross. Eaton Sales, agent, was the consignor.

The Keeneland November mixed sales were to continue through Nov. 19, with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m. in the Keeneland sale pavilion.